What is the position of painting in the contemporary moment? Is it predominantly abstract or representational?
For the painters within the Snarl Of Twine exhibition which just opened at Magenta Plains in New York, artworks they make either hinge on, or blatantly represent - both. Coming from different generations and two US coasts, the artists are showing paintings created in the past five years, each carrying a connection to figuration and abstraction alike. Within them, the viewers can find a piece of “twine” that comes together in this larger “snarl”, at the same time blurring and symbolizing the line between the two artistic genres.
Following the opening of Snarl Of Twine, we talk to the three founders/directors of Magenta Plains, Oliva Smith, Chris Dorland and David Deutch, about the importance of this show at this very moment. It will stay on view through July 27th 2018 at their space on 94 Allen St. in New York.
The full list of participating artists includes Lucien Smith, Nikholis Planck, Annabeth Marks, Kathryn Kerr, Becky Kolsrud, Israel Lund, Roger White, Donald Moffett, Shirley Irons, Robert Bordo and Dona Nelson.
Widewalls: What brings this particular group of artists together?
Oliva Smith, Chris Dorland, David Deutch: The exhibition came together through thinking about the possibilities of representation and abstraction in contemporary painting.
In Snarl Of Twine, many of the artists are working with both abstract and representational gestures - often simultaneously. Figuration and the human body, portraiture, and still life come into play as well as ways of building a picture - compositionally through fragmentation and isolation of object, conceptually through obfuscation of subject matter, and technically through many various methods of applying paint - whether it's dyed muslin in Dona Nelson's box painting, Israel Lund's silkscreen process, or Donald Moffett's meticulous extruded paintings.
The show is in many ways about how painting can sustain and articulate a variety of diverse, even seemingly contradictory "subject positions". As is our usual approach, there is an intergenerational mix of artists ranging from emerging to very established.
The artists originally hail from all over the country, though they now mostly live and work in New York City or Los Angeles.
Widewalls: Why do you believe there is such a tension or conflict between abstract and representational art methods? Why do you think artists practice them?
OS, CD, DD: We don’t actually think there is a conflict between the two. If anything, the hope for this exhibition is to make people question that perceived conflict.
Artists are not so didactic in their perception of the world and therefore [the] expression of it. We don't think rigid categorization comes naturally to the artist's mind. Rather, artists naturally think with flexibility and question perceived structures such as “abstraction” and “representation”.
Hopefully this exhibition will be a case in point and will allow visitors to see things a little differently.
Widewalls: In addition to the main show, there is also a presentation in the gallery window at 95 Orchard St., dedicated to Christine Wang. What can the visitors expect from it?
OS, CD, DD: Christine Wang's work is funny, irreverent and technically impressive. We are presenting a painting from Wang’s White People series, which features portraits of young Hollywood starlets, two men accused of sexual violence towards women, and a young Prince celebrated for his interracial marriage with text overlay such as “I just want to be a white girl” and “I wish I were a white man”.
This series is especially timely in light of what we are seeing in the U.S. with the current administration’s racist policies. The White People series dares to overtly address systemic racism and how that affects one’s subject position, aspirations and self-worth.
It’s exciting to display a fairly charged painting in our window gallery at 95 Orchard which is visible 24/7 from a busy street.
Widewalls: In your opinion, what is the current state of painting?
OS, CD, DD: Diverse, alive and well!
Featured image: Donald Moffett - Lot 092517 (faccia, titanium white), 2017. Oil on linen, wood panel, steel, 12.50 x 7.50 x 6.50 in. Courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Aspen. © Donald Moffett. Photo credit: Christopher Burke Studio; Oliva Smith, Chris Dorland, David Deutch. All images courtesy Magenta Plains.